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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
State doesn't walk the walk in job training
(wgvu) - State doesn't walk the walk in job training

Dec. 13, 2007

By Lynn Stevens

If education for advanced manufacturing is a state priority, state
funding wouldn't prove it.

Over the past decade, state aid for the institutions on the front lines
the state's 28 communities colleges and 18 Michigan Technical
Education Centers, or M-TECs has dropped significantly.

Lake Michigan College in Benton Township has put its M-TEC building up
for sale. The failure of a millage in November that cost some $3.3
million in anticipated revenue forced the sale, according to President
Randall Miller.

Community colleges fund M-TEC operations from their own revenues,
consisting of state aid, property taxes and tuition.
In 2001, 27 percent of LMC's budget came from state aid, Miller
said. Today the figure is 17 percent.

In dollars, the state Senate Fiscal Agency reported $310.9 million in
2003 for community colleges and $247.8 million in FY 2006-2007, he

Selling the seven-year-old M-TEC building won't necessarily bridge
that gap, and there are no buyers in the wings. But the sale will
eliminate some $250,000 in annual building operating expenses, Miller

Some programs will be cut and instructors let go to further cut costs.
Proceeds from the sale will be used to renovate existing space at the
Napier Avenue campus in Benton Township, the Bertrand Crossing campus in
Niles and the South Haven campus for M-TEC programs.

It doesn't mean the death knell for advanced manufacturing at
all, Miller said. We want to be right there in step with what the
government and the marketplace are saying, to be sure we're offering
what needs to be offered. It doesn't mean those programs all will go
away. But retain all of them? Probably not.
We will work to find greater efficiencies, but we will be smaller.
There will be fewer choices.

Perhaps the legislature figured voters would approve local property tax
increases to fund community-college job training, Miller speculated.
That's not happening in this economy.

Wayne County lost their renewal, Miller observed, ticking off
failed elections. Jackson (Community College) has had 13 defeats.
Grand Rapids Com munity College had two defeats in 2007. Voters are
saying Enough, already,' and it's not happening.

The state's fiscal pie is shrinking, noted Dennis Bona, vice
president for instruction at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek.
Even so, community colleges feel their slice is disproportionately

Yet the entire budget for community colleges is less than what they
give just Michigan State University, Bona said.

KCC built the Regional Manu facturing Technology Center at Fort Custer
Industrial Park 17 years ago, and it became the model for M-TECs
statewide. Because it was an unproven idea, they built it to be sold as
a factory if the concept failed, Bona said.
There never has been any thought of selling it, but money is tight.

At one time probably in the early 2000s or late 1990s the
state was as much as 43 percent of our funding, Bona said. Now
they're around 27 percent. So that's a dramatic shift in where the
dollars have to come from. And the property tax has basically stayed the
same .

KCC is committed to keeping the price of tuition as low as possible,
so we're running a very lean operation. We're down in personnel,
we've outsourced some services, we've rebid services.

Many of KCC's RMTC students are sponsored by their employers, so
those manufacturers are hit with tuition increases, just as individual
students are, Bona noted.

And KCC is looking for grant money, just as any not-for-profit would.
Most grants are for capital improvements almost none are for
operations, according to Laura DePompolo, RMTC director.

The center just acquired a computer-numerically controlled lathe for
$48,000 and that's after the educational discount. And it
doesn't have any of the bells and whistles standard in most
manufacturing operations, she added.

The average cost of simulated systems, such as boiler or steam trainer
systems, is around $22,000, stripped.

The more advanced the technology gets, the more costly it gets,
making the burden on the state, the colleges, the universities, the
vocational centers all the greater, DePompolo said.

Teaching skills area companies need and want is crucial to everyone's
success, according to Kalamazoo Valley Community College M-TEC Executive
Director James DeHaven. His advisory board numbers more than 200

Agility in changing to meet those needs, doing as much as possible at
the manufacturers' site, and doing it without a full-time faculty keep
the bills paid, DeHaven said.

If you set up a facility around what (manufacturing) is today, how
do you deal with tomorrow? DeHaven asked.

We do only a brokerage model we have no internal trainers. We
ask What is it you need?' and go out and find the subject matter

Between 50 to 90 percent of contract training is done at
manufacturers' sites, but the M-TEC building is constantly rented
for training space.

Yesterday it was Mann+Hummel and Stryker [NYSE: SYK], DeHaven
said. We have around 10,000 guests a year.

Once about one-third of KVCC's M-TEC funding came from the state. Now
users are the primary funders, DeHaven said.

We never had a millage and don't plan one, he said.
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